Whether a loved one has mild cognitive decline or was diagnosed with dementia years ago, it can be an upsetting and isolating situation for all involved. Now, there’s a movement afoot to support patients and those who love them: Memory cafes, also known as Alzheimer’s cafes. These are locations that host casual meet-ups with refreshments or pot luck-style snacks. But it’s not about whether you want a chai latte or a skim cappuccino. The goal here is to help those with cognitive issues and their caregivers relax and have an outing that brings support, community, and a little joy to daily life.
Support Is Now Being Served
The idea was the brainstorm of Dr. Bere Miesen, a Dutch psychiatrist, who created this concept as a way to offset the stigma that is so often associated with dementia. Today, there are hundreds of locations around the globe, often sponsored by social services organizations—like the Alzheimer’s Association.
These aren’t actual cafes, open seven days a week, but recurring get-togethers, hosted at coffee houses, museums, community spaces, and other locations, usually during quiet times of the day. A group leader makes everyone feel comfortable, and there’s typically an activity planned so that all feel engaged and interested. At New York’s Memory Arts Café, for instance, small groups go on field trips, enjoying picnics in good weather and walks to an ice-cream shop. Other times, musicians, poets, and dancers share their craft with those who attend. These gatherings also help caregivers relax and chat with one another, sharing concerns and finding a caring network.
To learn more, search for “memory cafes” or “Alzheimer’s cafes” in your area or ask the medical team providing care to your loved one for local leads.